People who have a difficult time recognizing when their blood sugar is dropping may have to look no further than a cup of coffee for help.
A study appearing in the January 6, 1996 issue of The Lancet found that mild doses of caffeine led to a greater awareness of hypoglycemia.
The study, performed by the Metabolism Unit of Royal Bournemouth Hospital in England, said that heightened brain activity induced by caffeine may “suggest caffeine as a potentially useful treatment for diabetic patients who have difficulty recognizing the onset of hypoglycemia.”
Twelve patients participated in two sessions of the study, during which their blood sugar was slowly lowered. In the first session, each patient was given no caffeine and in the second, each was given 250 mg, approximately the average daily dose for a coffee drinker in the United States. Blood flow to the brain, hormone levels and patient-acknowledged symptoms were all monitored.
At low blood glucose levels “caffeine ingestion was associated with greater awareness of hypoglycemia in nine patients,” and significantly more brain activity as well as higher hormone levels.
During the landmark DCCT study, which proved tight control of blood sugar levels decreases the chances of complications, 36 percent of “awake” hypoglycemic episodes had no accompanying symptoms. Of those who did have symptoms, 51percent of patients could not recognize them.